Isn’t the Jefferson salamander the mascot for the city of Burlington? So why has the Region grabbed the story?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 8, 2012  It was Burlington people who brought to light just how many Jefferson salamanders there are in rural part of the city and it was the Harmer family that made the slimy little creature the centre piece for at least a part of the Joint Tribunal Hearings heard by an Ontario Municipal Board hearing that lasted more than a year.

And it is Burlington that is going to shut down parts of King Road so the ladies can cross the road and lay their eggs.  If all these things are true – then why is there this big web site spread on the Regional web site..  Shouldn’t it be on the city of Burlington’s web site.  Memo to the public affairs people at city hall – you were scooped.

This is the section of the road being closed so that the Jefferson Salamander can trek across and lay its eggs. King Road is closed further to the south as well for grade separation work.

King Road, between the base of the Niagara Escarpment and Mountain Brow Road, will be closed March 8 to March 29 to allow the endangered Jefferson salamander safe passage during its annual migration to lay eggs.

In Canada, the Jefferson salamander is found only in Southern Ontario, mainly along the Niagara Escarpment. Burlington is home to one of the few pockets of Jefferson salamanders in the province.  In the past the city attempted a voluntary closure of a stretch of King Road to protect the species. In 2011, Conservation Halton conducted field research on the impact of vehicular traffic on the Jefferson salamander during breeding season. That research resulted in a full closure for the duration of the migration.

“We tried voluntary overnight closures as a temporary solution,” said Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven. “But with such a small population, losing even a few of these endangered salamanders is too many. A three week closure is a small price to pay to preserve a species.”

According to Conservation Halton, a typical Jefferson salamander colony is small – with a population of no more than 100 – and confined to a specific area.

Local Jefferson salamanders spend the winter on one side of King Road, then cross the road to seek temporary ponds formed by spring run-off.   “The annual migration takes place during dark, rainy periods in March, in exactly the type of weather where you probably won’t even see the salamander,” said Bruce Zvaniga, Burlington’s director of transportation. “The road closure is key to preserving the population.”

The Jefferson salamander, native to the northern part of the city appears to have become a mascot for the Region.

While Burlington does all it can to create an environment that the close to extinct critter can survive in, the Region is putting all their dollars into promoting the salamander..  The Regional Museum unveiled a new website featuring the Niagara Escarpment in Halton called Jeff’s Home.

The interactive, informative and easy-to-use experimental exhibition on the Escarpment in Halton is named after the Jefferson salamander, an Escarpment inhabitant. Made possible with the assistance of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture’s Museums and Technology Fund.

The site will serve as a teacher portal, offering access to environmental learning, heritage and escarpment facts and activities for students.  It can also be used by the community at large, by a broader audience who may be thinking of visiting the Escarpment, as well as by those who are not able to visit in person, but who will now be able to enjoy a virtual experience.

Jeff, a Jefferson Salamander, serves as the site’s tour guide.  Jeff was chosen as guide through the site’s Escarpment Discovery Hike, Educators’ Corner and information resources in The Escarpment in Halton pages because he is an indicator species. “If there’s trouble in our habitat, I give a warning,” said Jeff.

Visit the site at


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1 comment to Isn’t the Jefferson salamander the mascot for the city of Burlington? So why has the Region grabbed the story?

  • Thank you for sharing the story of us Jefferson salamanders and also about the wonderful new website where humans can learn more about us and where we live.

    There is something we are not happy about, though. You said that we are “slimy”. We prefer to think of our rather attractive skin as “slick”. It’s an easy mistake to make, so there are no hard feelings.

    Vernally yours,
    Jeff Salamander

    Ed note: Slick of course has a connotation of its own so we will stick with slimy until we come up with a nicer word. We are open to suggestions.